#MeToo: Sexual harassment/abuse/assault stories
Once again, a year after the last such Twitter trend (that time about handsy Trump), it’s time to Tweet about sexual harassment/abuse/assault again. I’m reposting what I posted last year, now adding it to the #MeToo trend:
See juslikagrzly’s It has happened to me. It has happened to you. She writes about the pervasive problem of sexual harassment, by simply posting the stories of many women reacting to Trump’s banter on sexual assault. She says,
It’s happened to me many, many times. It’s happened to you many, many times — and Donald Trump’s vile and disgusting admission of sexual assault has brought the memories roaring back into my awareness. It feels like being dragged down into a vortex of the shame, embarrassment, disgust, fear, and utter helplessness women experience when men have treated us like sexual meat.
One of the anonymous stories:
Watching the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings and wondering why she continued to work for him, all the while KNOWING EXACTLY WHY SHE CONTINUED TO WORK WITH HIM. Feeling ashamed and embarrassed for her, myself, and all women who grit their teeth and put up with vile, disgusting behavior.
The stories have a common refrain: “I never told anyone.” I didn’t talk about it, either. I didn’t tell teachers. I didn’t tell cafeteria monitors, even though friends told me to. I didn’t tell my parents. I didn’t change seats. I just stayed silent, letting it eat away at my stomach until I had to get Pepcid for the stomach ulcer and medicine for the headaches and a splint for the TMJ.
I thought maybe it was the NVLD or selective mutism or shyness keeping me silent, but here I find plenty of other teenage girls who also said nothing, just put up with it.
Then, many years later, it happened again, online this time. After many years of silence, I told my best friend, a man, what had happened back in high school–but now he turned around and told me the online stuff “wasn’t real” and I should “get over it.”
People say things are better for women and there is no rape culture. But here’s Trump and Giuliani saying this is just “locker room talk” that men do all the time. Trump’s apology was fake, as anyone who’s known a narcissist can tell you. First he says he’s sorry, but then he turns right around and minimizes what he did, then deflects attention onto somebody else’s shortcomings.
Well, here are my stories, and I’m not silent about it anymore:
As a little girl, I loved wearing dresses. I preferred them to pants.
Then one day in Kindergarten, as I walked to school, a couple of little boys cornered me and started lifting up my skirt. I finally got away from them, but the damage was done: I never told my mom why I suddenly hated dresses and insisted on wearing pants all the time (except to church).
High School Sexual Harassment
My freshman year in high school, I was sexually harassed by three guys, two of them together.
One of them kept making sexual comments to me at lunch, and once even put his penis on the table next to me. I refused to look, but know he did it, because of the reactions of the guys around him.
I couldn’t stand the school’s chicken sandwiches after that because that’s what I was eating at the time, and it reminded me of it.
Now I know that I could’ve switched tables to get away from them, but at the time I felt trapped into sitting at that one table because that’s where I sat at the beginning of the year. I didn’t realize that I could sit at a different table with other kids.
I’m not sure why I felt that I had to sit at that table, but it could have been an NVLD thing: “You can’t change the pattern you’ve already set!”
After lunch we would all stand by the door and wait for the bell; I can remember this guy doing or saying something while we stood in line, so much that I crouched down as if to protect myself. But I just don’t remember what exactly he was doing.
The two other guys, who sat at the table behind mine in Biology class second semester, would spend the class period making sexual comments to me. Once, one spoke so loudly to me during the lecture that the teacher stopped and scolded them.
I don’t know why I didn’t tell the teachers what was happening; a friend told me to do so about the lunch period bully, but something kept me quiet. In fact, in general I was a passive recipient of bullying. I just didn’t fight back.
Then there was the guy who called me up one day. We were having a nice little conversation until he said he was playing with his d***. I said something I now forget and hung up. I never did find out who it was. It sounded like he knew one of my classmates.
Then, of course, there were the catcalls, starting in middle school when my curves began to form, going on for years, sometimes at recess, sometimes while walking home from school. Even a girl in my neighborhood made a sexual comment to me one day on my way home from school!
Religious and Sexual Harassment by a Teacher
Meanwhile, my Photography teacher made at least one such comment as well. (I don’t know why all this happened the same year.)
All first semester he’d been harassing me for being a Christian and having conservative values, even though I don’t recall saying a whole lot about them in class or much of anything, really, unless spoken to.
Other kids in Photography class joined in on the religious harassment, including a witch who told me her coven killed my cat (all I said was he went missing on Halloween and never came back), and one day started yelling at me that maybe God is the liar and the Devil is telling the truth–until a Jewish girl told her to quit it and leave me alone.
Then one day, during a work period, the teacher was sitting on a stool at a large table when I had to get around an obstruction of some type. I don’t remember the details now, what the obstruction was, or anything. But I didn’t want to go behind him to get around, because there wasn’t enough room and I’d run into his butt.
Rather than leave me alone like any decent man would do, he ridiculed me and told me to go behind him.
I don’t know why on earth I did this like an idiot–probably because I had grown up with the mindset that you do whatever a teacher tells you–but I started going the other way to go behind him, like an obedient student.
He started humming or moaning, and a girl said to me with wide eyes, “Better not do that.”
The following semester, I ditched that class and switched to a class on life skills. He was a major reason why, both from this and from his religious harassment.
That year or the next, a letter to the editor of the school newspaper complained about an unnamed teacher who would sexually harass students. I always wondered if the girl who “rescued” me was the writer and if she meant my Photography teacher. (I must have forgotten her name already.)
All these things happened freshman year, and that year I began to get an ulcer from the stress. After every lunch period, my stomach was in a lot of pain.
My junior year, I developed headaches from TMJ in my jaw, another stress-related condition, even though the freshman year bullies had either graduated or were no longer in my classes.
College Sexual Abuse
For my stories on this, see my college memoirs here, and look for Shawn and Phil. Shawn is…complicated, a guy who kept pushing my boundaries and then saying he wasn’t attracted to me, and blaming me for everything he did. Phil used various forms of manipulation and even tried to force me into anal and oral sex.
Online Sexual Harassment
In late May or early June of 2009, while I was in an IRC chatroom with my best friend Richard, two of the admins started sexually harassing and bullying me. Several of the other members–including a woman!–egged them on.
I did nothing to bring this on, had said nothing for some time, and probably wasn’t even watching the screen at first, while doing other things online. I sat there in silent disbelief when they started doing this.
Then the Creep, one of the admins, because my handle was a hobbit, began making cracks like, was I hairy all over. His comments turned to my private parts.
I just sat there in disbelief, not responding at all, when he started going on and on about how awful it is for women to not shave that area, and how his girlfriend shaves.
And then one of the other Creeps, also an admin, started insisting I post pics of that area. I said nothing to these guys to bring this on; I don’t think I said a word through much of this.
I thought Richard would stick up for me, but he said nothing, at least not publicly so I could see it.
Richard quickly went onto a channel I myself had made recently for personal friends, so I could get away from these people and still talk with him.
While this stuff was going on, his wife Tracy came in the main chatroom. I expected that she had seen everything and was going to give these creeps a piece of her mind, complete with her usual cussing.
But instead, when one of the admins told her I was being a b**ch for refusing to show him a picture of my private parts, she just said, “You know how hobbits are,” and started joking around and chatting with them about having a get-together at her house.
I finally told the main harasser to bite me. The other admin said that was a stupid thing to say. Richard even typed that he was “biting” me, basically participating now.
Then they kicked me off the channel, and banned me for several days. I kept checking to see if I could get in, but just for information’s sake: I intended to have nothing more to do with that channel and those jerks.
These filthy creeps were actually friends of Richard and Tracy! Nearly a year later, I learned that Richard told them they were being jerks. But he never made them apologize or anything. And they knew I was his real-life close friend, but did this anyway.
I was shaken and upset for days, trying to watch movies on TV, but this was constantly on my mind. It was disturbing, made me feel gross.
For probably at least a year, even making love to my husband would bring it back to mind, because of how gross it made me feel.
This was no joking around–This was sexual harassment! And Richard and Tracy did absolutely NOTHING to stick up for me!
As I wrote in an e-mail to Richard on June 5, 2009,
I’ve been feeling this massive boredom and sadness the past few days because of so many things happening at once….
This strange feeling of not knowing if I want to be around people or just hide away even from my best friends, waiting and waiting to hear that something has changed or been resolved….
I try to be happy and it almost feels like I’m manufacturing it, it’s not really felt.
I try to ignore the [IRC] thing, try to act like it’s not a big deal, but it just isn’t working.
I have to be honest with myself. I have to put my finger on the problem: Why should I be upset about being banned from a place with people I don’t even like?
If that’s all it is, then I’d feel like an idiot. So it can’t just be that. Is it pride because I’m not the sort of person who gets banned from *anywhere*? It’s part of it, maybe, but not all.
Is it the crying out for justice? Maybe that’s it. I want somebody to get chewed out. I want apologies. I feel humiliated.
That’s part of it: The humiliation. I’ve been in flame wars before; I recall once sticking up for my friends and getting ridiculed for it, until finally the sysop put a stop to the whole thing. I learned how not to feed the trolls.
But in this case I wasn’t even feeding the trolls. I was just bored and playing a little here and there to pass the time, not being mean or nasty to anybody.
The humiliation comes from, mostly, being verbally abused for no reason and the others standing by and letting it happen–heck, some even joining in, saying don’t let the door hit me in the a** etc. etc., even a *girl* playing along like it was funny.
I remember it was [The Creep], [a few others], and possibly one other though I don’t remember now. You say you were chatting with [The Creep]; I want to hear that you told him to knock it off and that he’s being an a****** to a dear friend of yours and that he’d better be apologizing to me ASAP because his “joke” is not at all funny.
I wrote about the guys in high school.
When Tracy came in I thought she’d seen everything and was going to chew out [The Creep], especially after he said I’m being b*****y for not posting obscene pictures of myself, but instead she just says “that’s how hobbits are” and starts joking with him and arranging some get-together….
I don’t want these people anywhere near me if that’s how they treat women. All I ever did was be nice; I thought being your friend would mean good treatment; in return I got sexually harassed and verbally abused and banned. As far as I’m concerned, these are not good people. Even as a joke–That just isn’t funny.
I feel sick inside. I know you were disgusted by the whole thing as well; I’m not blaming you for anything. I just can’t keep bottling it up.
I thought he would distance himself from them, stop hanging out with them, because they were so horrible, because they would treat a woman like that, because they were sexual harassers.
But no, he still kept going into that channel, still kept talking to the worst offender on the phone. He occasionally brought them up in conversation. I couldn’t understand how he could do this.
But he only mentioned them once or twice over the next year, so I said nothing–until I heard he was going to have them all over to his house in 2010.
In March of 2010, when my husband came home from D&Ding with Richard and Tracy one Friday night, he told me we wouldn’t be able to D&D with them the following weekend: They were planning to have those jerks from the IRC channel come visit them.
Here in my town.
In their house.
I was irate, telling Jeff, “It’s disgusting!”
If I saw somebody sexually harass one of my closest friends, I’d have nothing to do with him!
How could Richard not cut these people out of his life for being so horrid to women, to one of his best and closest friends, to the one who helped him above and beyond what most people would do?
And how could he invite sexual harassers to his house? Wasn’t he afraid of letting these people anywhere near his little girls?
I couldn’t quite bring myself to tell Jeff just what these people had said to me in the chat, but tried to make him understand that he would’ve wanted to punch them all out if he saw it. It took quite a while before I could tell him just what went on.
I ranted about it to Jeff, wondered what I should do about it, what should I say? We pondered the wisdom, or lack thereof, of an ultimatum.
Jeff told me I had to make a decision on what to do, whether to say that Richard should drop these friends. He also picked up some brochures about a circle of respect, which he was going to “plant” at Richard’s house so the jerks would find it.
The party was cancelled, but I began to ponder the situation, what to do about it, how to handle it, whether it was my problem or his.
A week or two later, I had almost forgotten about it, when something brought it back to my mind again, making me feel dirty and gross with the memory of what the creeps had said to me. So I knew this was important.
So I wrote an e-mail to Richard about it. This was around April 1. It took me some three hours, carefully crafting it so he wouldn’t feel like I blamed him or anything, and carefully leaving out any hint that he should drop these friends.
I used all the tips that counselors recommend for dealing with difficult conversations, without putting people on the defensive.
I kept out how I found it disgusting that he would invite these jerks to his house. I restricted my request to him please refraining from mentioning the names of these people around me, to help me to get past this and move on.
After all, the time he spent with me was only a few hours every week or so, most of which were taken up with D&D, and he rarely talked about them around me in the first place. So this shouldn’t be too much to ask.
He said no. In fact, he wrote such a scathing e-mail–saying that he had actually written other drafts which he scrapped, which were even more scathing–that I thought here was proof that no, he didn’t care about me at all anymore.
I cried, and was so upset that it affected me physically. I even had to ask a neighbor to take my son to school, because I just couldn’t handle it.
Instead of writing back, I called him up. He told me I was being “ridiculous,” that I needed to get over it, that online sexual harassment isn’t “real” and he thought I knew that. He said, “I love you like a sister, but you’re driving me crazy.”
He blamed me, treated me like there was something hysterical about getting upset over guys online making personal remarks about my genitals and ripping into me for getting mad at them and not showing them naked pictures.
He complained about “pampering” me.
He also talked like there was something ridiculous about not wanting to hear the names of your sexual harassers spoken around you.
Yet even my husband feels the same way, cringing at the very name of someone who has abused or otherwise mistreated him. My husband thought I was not being at all unreasonable, and did not like how Richard treated me over this.
I just couldn’t stand that he would call this “ridiculous” or tell me to just “get over it”–or that he and Tracy were still friends with the main harasser, the Creep, after this incident, that a year later he was talking with them about a get-together at their house and in my city.
I told Richard I didn’t want these guys to know what city I lived in, who I was, or anything. But he said they already knew.
He said the Creep was actually shy and quiet in real life, not like his online persona at all–but that didn’t impress me, because you’re still a jerk even if you’re only a jerk online. He said he did tell these guys they were being jerks to me, but now he so downplayed what they did, made it sound like I was just irrational and silly, that I couldn’t believe it.
He talked as if these guys were just behaving normally and did this to Richard’s other friends, but those friends would play along and be good sports about it. It made me sound like a combination of prude and party pooper.
In August 2014, old college classmate Persephone shared this webpage on Facebook, Next Time Someone Says Women Aren’t Victims Of Harassment, Show Them This.
I then shared it myself, along with a short description of the above incidents. My friends responded:
“cyber bullying isn’t real bullying either then I suppose? And cyber sex with minors isn’t real pedophilia is it?? The one who needs to get over it is the person who wants to diminish what your truth is. If you feel like you were victimized then you were.” –(my old friend Mike)
“what the h*? Also, that his wife participated is equally disturbing but all too common.” –(Persephone)
“Oh yeah, he also told me he had other friends who would go in that particular chat room with him, and could handle that kind of ‘joking.’ Making me sound like I’m just too sensitive. Yet for some time afterward, I felt dirty because of the things they said.“
“ew, that SUCKS – and so much wth? The ‘you’re being too sensitive’ is such a go-to from narcissists, usually when they’re enjoying your pain. ? “